Research Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

Neha Kaul, PRYDE Scholar

Neha Kaul, PRYDE Scholar

I think everyone comes into college wanting to make a difference- whether it is in their own life or in the lives of others. I came in the same exact way and was eager to get started with research. I started working in a food science lab and it was exactly what you picture when you think of research: white coats, pipettes and beakers with mysterious substances inside. The research aimed to encapsulate fish oil using an alternate method than used currently in order to incorporate it nationally into various food products to improve their omega-3 levels.

I learned so much through this lab, including how to read research papers quickly and concisely. However, I quickly realized that I would likely not see anything from my work come into fruition. It would likely take many years for the findings to be implemented in food and would need to be tested and then mass-manufactured by food companies. This idea saddened me. I could spend as many hours as I wanted on this work, but I would not know if this was ever going to have an impact on anything.

The summer after my freshman year, I worked at Children’s Hospital in DC on delirium research in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The purpose of this work was to reduce the amount of post-surgery delirium in children. I worked on developing interventions that the PICU team, primarily the nurses, would implement into their daily routines. This experience completely changed my perspective on what research was and what it could be. I always thought of research in the traditional sense and did not know what clinical research was before working in the PICU. More importantly, it helped me realize that I could have a more direct impact on projects that I am passionate about.

I eventually left the food science lab at the end of my sophomore fall semester, wanting more – and wanting to see something tangible come out of my work, just like I saw at the hospital. At this point, I was three semesters into college, starting my fourth- and lost. I knew I wanted to continue doing research but I did not know where to start when it came to finding a new lab or a new project that really excited me.

Finding out about PRYDE was perfect for me. After working on research related to children in the PICU, I became really passionate about youth-related projects. The idea of “blending research and service” for optimal youth development struck me as unique and a one-of-a-kind experience. It took me back to my original hopes of “making a difference.”

Being a PRYDE Scholar has already taught me so much. It has given me exposure to 4-H, an amazing national program that I really lacked knowledge about. I am so excited to work with different 4-H programs in various counties through the work in the Early Childhood Cognition (ECC) Lab. The main goal of the lab is to identify how young children learn about the world through their everyday experiences. Recruitment – or learning how to find good locations and contact the sites efficiently and effectively – was a completely foreign task to me, but I’m focusing on learning it now. I am currently in the process of contacting local Ithaca after-school programs, in hopes of enrolling kids from ages 5-8. It definitely is not as easy as it seems, but it is worth it in the end. While I have only just begun in the ECC lab, I am so excited to see where the research goes and how I will grow through my time as a PRYDE Scholar.

Two years into college, I still want to make a difference- in myself and for others. Most importantly, I have realized that it is important to be passionate and happy about the work I am doing.

Neha KaulComment